Encouraging reading is important to me because I am a lover of “escapism”, and I want my kids to be able to explore the worlds they are interested in.
When Number 1 was little (around 20 years ago), I read to him constantly. Usually the same couple of books; I still have the first few pages of Dinosaurs Dinosaurs by Byron Barton memorized. Unfortunately, the more children I had, the less time I had for reading.
Number 1 is still an active reader, in fact, we pass books back and forth so we can live in the same fictional worlds together. Our first daughter (Number 2) reads happily, but her main interests lay elsewhere. Number 3 reads so much that she is oblivious to all the world; when we really want to punish her, we ground her from reading books. It goes downhill from there… and it’s a pretty steep hill, too. Oh the boys will swarm me if I pick a book up to read to them, but they consider reading as a “form of entertainment” the way we would consider drinking our own pee in a survival scenario (in other words, as a last resort).
One of the ways I encourage reading is by keeping a variety of books accessible to them. I have four plastic bins that I store seasonal books in. The current season’s books are put out on a small table next to some comfy seats. The kids always dig through these bins as if they were bored with all the books that stay on the shelf year-round. These are the books I’m most likely to read aloud to them. The older kids find chapter books to enjoy the season with.
Our public library sells their “withdrawn” books periodically. This is where we pick up great books for anywhere between ten cents and a dollar. I stock up on (youth) non-fiction books, biographies, seasonal, and how-to books. The kids grab all the fiction books they can carry. It is difficult to find the complete series or sometimes the beginning of a series, but we always walk out feeling like we won the lottery!
Those students required to fill out a “Reading Log” (as part of their daily homework) must choose a non-fiction book once a week. My teacher sister passed that tip on to me; it gives the kids an opportunity to explore any part of real life they have an interest in. Number 6 chose a particular subject one day because he was “going to have to learn about it anyway” (according to his First Grade Weekly Newsletter). Later that week, he called me from school to tell me his teacher thought he was brilliant! Apparently, the non-fiction book he read really gave him a leg up in class.
SIDE NOTE: This was a disorientating call that I wasn’t properly excited about. Usually phone calls from the school are to tell me Number 4 is trying to push another teacher into early retirement.
School and Public Library Books.
Because many of our books have (withdrawn) library tags on the spine, it is difficult to tell library books from home books apart at a glance. These books I keep separated from all the other books in the house. I have the kids keep library books in their backpacks for safety, and so that they have them on hand for school library days. I often wonder why they would bother checking out books from school when I have a plethora of books on hand at home; then I noticed all the boys’ books are free with the potty humor. I guess reading stories about courage and perseverance isn’t as fun as reading about a turd wearing a cape…
Keeping books available to the kids on shelves they can reach is the basic tactic I use to encourage reading.
I like to enlist the older siblings in reading to the younger, too. I love to catch my kids reading to each other. Sometimes, they just share a snippet of something that made them laugh. Sometimes, they read several stories together. I’m not above making one read to another as an “extra chore” or “act of kindness” either. I don’t have time to read to my kids as much as I’d like, but I am always looking for subtle ways to encourage reading.